Each year there is always that one game that comes out of nowhere and completely blows my mind; last year it was Until Dawn. 2016 was a lot like that, and for me could be summed up as the year of pleasant surprises.
A few of my most anticipated games fell short of my expectations and landed a slightly lower rank for others that weren't even on my radar. The biggest shake up in my gaming universe came in the form of VR, not only did I vicariously live out a life long dream/biggest nightmare of cage diving with a shark, but the PSVR also renewed my interest in the horror genre.
A few games that were also contenders that just missed being included were, Inside and No Man“s Sky. Dishonored 2 was left off because sadly I never found the time to play it. Then there“s Overwatch, just kidding I have no interest in that game whatsoever.
So without further adieu, I present you my (spoiler free) top ten games of 2016. Ok, there“s 11, I have this thing about even numbers, odd, always odd numbers with me
11. Tom Clancy“s Division
I love a good pandemic outbreak in a video game, but maybe after playing The Last of Us, my expectations were too high for The Division. I felt no sense of urgency trying to save the human race. I think a lot of that was because much of the story was presented to you in the form of various audio recordings scattered within the open world of the fictional Manhattan.
However, that didn't stop me from sinking several hours into the game. Gameplay was a lot like Destiny, but I found the loot drops and leveling up in this game less frustrating than the abusive relationship I had with that game. There“s something about the concept of looting and leveling a character up in a video game that I can't resist. I feel the heart of The Division“s story is a morality tale warning the human race that Black Friday shopping is evil and if you partake in the barbaric ritual, you will die a painful death from smallpox.
10. Call of Duty Infinite Warfare
I would have loved Activision to forgo the Call of Duty brand for Infinity Ward“s Infinite Warfare. Sure it still has the foundations of a COD game, but it could have just as easily been marketed as a new sci-Fi franchise separate from COD. Multiplayer is pretty much what you would expect; no one is reinventing the wheel here. Maps are decent, and the game features a wide variety of standard and more futuristic versions of various weapons, and of course zombies.
Infinite Warfare“s real strength comes from its campaign. Visually it is stunning especially running on a PS4 Pro. It tells a decent story and features memorable characters, including a charming and witty robot named Ethan, and something COD has sorely lacked in the past, a positive female character, Lt. Nora Salter. Too bad Infinity Ward wasn't brave enough to make her the lead playable character, but it's progress nonetheless. I love the missions where you have to fly a Jackal, so much fun. Too bad IW didn't think to include a multiplayer Jackal mode similar to Battlefront“s Fighter Squadron.
9. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood
This game bears very little resemblance to last year's excellent Until Dawn regarding gameplay. It's an on-rails shooter, macabre roller coaster ride through a very creepy carnival/haunted house where dolls, demons, squealing pigs and everyone's favorite, clowns are the enemies that often jump out at you when you least expect it. While it still perfectly fits the category of horror, Rush of Blood is more a light-hearted scare, one that you never really sense you are in danger unlike the demo, Kitchen or the Playtest episode of Black Mirror.
Rush of Blood has a fun arcade-y feel to it and is a perfect introduction to VR. Akimbo move controllers are the only way to play this game; the dual shock 4 will work, but hitting various targets in quick succession heightens your score, and the DS4 will slow you down. The game features seven different uniquely themed levels and while the enemies all tend to feel the same despite their form, it's replay value is high, and it's some of the best entertainment $20 can buy.
8. Ratchet and Clank (2016)
Ratchet and Clank is not a remastered version of the PS2 classic but rather an all-new game based on the animated movie that is based on the original game. Err, whatever it is, it's spectacular fun. Often the thing I find with remastered/ remakes is that you can't always go home again. While you may have loved a game fifteen years ago, it may not have aged as well as single malt whiskey. Not a problem here, though, the characters, gameplay, and story feel brand new.
It looks fantastic, once again it has PS4 Pro support that really makes those graphics pop. I've always thought Insomniac games have the best weapons and gadgets, the sheepinator will transform your enemies into harmless sheep, while the Groovitron forces enemies to uncontrollably dance, you don't find that fun in Battlefield“s arsenal. Ratchet and Clank was worth revisiting or playing for the first time. I only hope the upcoming Crash Bandicoot reboots are this good.
7. Titanfall 2
First off, no one is more surprised than I am that Titanfall 2 wasn't higher up on this list. [Editor's note: Full disclosure - Laddie is a moderator for Respawn's official Titanfall forums]. Respawn has delivered a great campaign that incorporates elements of genres you don't often see blended with an FPS like platformers and puzzles. Where Titanfall 2 misses the mark with me is, multiplayer.
The first Titanfall was something so magical that I have invested over 60 days of playtime into it. Of course, I expected changes in the sequel, but Titanfall 2 doesn't feel like Titanfall anymore. The maps hardly encourage movement; the Titans are a shadow of what they used to be, and only two game modes feature grunts, and even then they have been stripped of their witty banter.
Respawn prides itself on listening to the community, but I have to wonder if they were listening to the right community. They almost shipped Titanfall 2 without the most popular game mode Attrition in favor of the camper“s delight mode, Bounty Hunt. Luckily they came to their senses and added it back before launch.
Titanfall 2 is still a decent game, especially if you didn't play the first, and all future DLC except cosmetics will be free. There“s also the grappling hook; that's fun.
6. Here They Lie
I pretty much freaked out when I saw the trailer to Here They Lie for the first time. I“d been anxiously awaiting to see what Cory Davis (Spec Ops: The Line) and his Tangentlemen were up to. Here They Lie was a PSVR launch title and Sony Santa Monica and Tangentlemen took a Blair Witch approach to building up interest and promoting the game in the weeks before it released in the form of a website. Each day I would visit in hopes of finding out more about the Daedalus Project and the woman in yellow.
Here They Lie is a psychological horror game, one that is steeped in surrealism, so much so that I felt like I was in a David Lynch movie. By that, I don't mean an actor playing in a David Lynch movie but rather your life becoming a Lynch movie. The look is gritty and reminded me of Eraserhead, and another aspect that was very Lynchian was the use of sound as if it became a character in the game. It also took a bit of getting used to, and at first, I could only play it for short periods at a time. Oddly enough, it is the only VR game that made me feel slightly queasy.
It's not a game for everyone as it often relies on symbols and metaphors for the player to interpret for themselves. Here They Lie is an interesting horror experience, one that doesn't last long but will haunt you for days after.
5. Rusty Lake Roots
Someone very wise once recommended that I play Rusty Lake Hotel, it was a puzzle/room escape/adventure that was so dark and twisted I instantly became addicted. This lead to the discovery of the Cube Escape series also developed by Rusty Lake, which kept me occupied right up until the announce of Rusty Lake Roots.
If you have ever been intrigued by the prospect of tracking your family tree through things like Ancestry.com, Rusty Lake Roots might just change your mind. There are 33 levels in Roots, solving one, opens up another part of the story that traces the Vanderboom family through several generations of a deeply disturbed family.
If David Lynch (yeah, I know another Lynch reference) were to make a strange and surreal point and click adventure game, it would probably be a lot like this. It's tough to discuss Rusty Lake Roots without spoiling things, but for a mere $3, you should give it a try.
4. The Deadly Tower of Monsters
Every month I'm constantly disappointed or already own the free games offered with PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold. Recently PS+ offered up a game I missed called The Deadly Tower of Monsters. Right before Thanksgiving I went and caught myself a terrible cold/sore throat combination which freed up some time that I filled with video games. By chance, I decided to give DTOM a try.
The concept of the game is that a cheesy science fiction B-movie is being re-released on DVD, and the director is brought in to record commentary while you play. It felt like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and features a mix of aliens, dinosaurs, and dragons as enemies while the gameplay is a hack and slash/ dual stick shooter hybrid complete with irreverent humor.
Seriously, was this game made for me personally, of course not but it sure felt like it. There are three playable characters and each feature different abilities that you will need to swap out to access or complete various levels. It's not an exceptionally long game, but it makes up for that with fun and cleverness.
3. Uncharted 4
I was saddened by the thought of our hero Drake“s story coming to an end and worried that an Amy Hennig-less Naughty Dog would not do his ending justice. I was wrong, Uncharted 4 -- while probably my least favorite of the series -- delivered a beautiful and perfect ending while leaving the possibility of another Uncharted series in the future.
Uncharted games have always been the perfect mixture of great storytelling and fun gameplay; Uncharted 4 didn“t quite get the balance right this time. One minute I would be in the moment of action packed adventure only to be interrupted with extremely lengthy cutscenes that stole my momentum. Stealth based combat has always been an option and even sometimes a necessary means of survival in Uncharted, but it felt forced in Uncharted 4.
I guess what I'm trying to say is the influence of Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann made it feel more The Last of Us than Uncharted regarding gameplay. That“s by no means a terrible thing; I just felt it slowed up the pace. It goes without saying the game looks gorgeous. What surprised me the most was how good the multiplayer is. I don't prefer third person and no one buys an Uncharted game for MP, but it's worth a try.
I expected nothing from Doom but a slight disappointment. Was I ever wrong; I love this game. It was a tough decision putting it in second place and could just as easily be my number one. Doom“s ultimate strength is the excellent single-player campaign; it's not exactly groundbreaking material but what it lacks in originality is surpassed by pure fun. It“s also quite a lengthy campaign by today's standards, one in which I have played through several times to find all the hidden things and areas. Kudos to the artists and level designers at Id that made Hell and Mars look so good.
Initially, I wasn't impressed with Doom“s multiplayer but it got better once I learned to lose my regenerating health sensibilities and remember to pick up health packs. Id“s dedication to the game is admirable as well; They keep adding free content and game modes that keep me coming back to play.
1. The Last Guardian
In the nine years it took for The Last Guardian to come out, my interest in this game has run the gamut between super excitement to indifference. In all honesty, I never thought the game would ever be more than an urban legend. On December 6, 2016, Sony finally released The Last Guardian.
My journey began as soon as it unlocked at midnight and for the next few days, the game consumed me. The game is not without flaws, and everything you have heard is true, camera angles and wonky controls are often frustrating but if you have played Ico or Shadow of the Colossus they will come as no surprise.
There were times I felt the awkward controls were by design and that later in the game controlling the nameless boy became more intuitive as if the boy was learning. More than likely it was due to just becoming more accustomed to the controls. I've heard several people complain of terrible frame rate issues as well, but I didn't experience that, it's probably just less noticeable on the Pro.
The real star of the game is Trico, a giant cat/dog/bird that is the most advanced AI I've encountered in a game, which probably contributed to the delay as I'm not sure PS3 could have pulled it off. I fell in love with that magnificent beast and the relationship between Trico, and the boy is truly something special. The game hit my emotions in a way I didn't expect, I“m not even ashamed to admit it brought me to tears, both of sadness and of joy.
The Last Guardian is my game of the year because it was such a powerful moving experience despite its flaws. Sometimes I stray, but we all know my gamer heart has always truly belonged to Sony, games like The Last Guardian make me proud to be a Playstation fan.